It is a long-held belief in the UK that we are a nation of animal lovers and this confidence is perpetuated by the media, our self-righteous selves and even the Government who in a recent report on animal welfare stated in the first line that: ‘We have the best animal welfare in the world and we are a nation of animal lovers’. We tend to wallow in this self-professed accolade, never question it and for some inexplicable reason actually believe it, but this false sense of security is one of the reasons animal abuse continues unabated in the UK and is arguably on the increase.
It is a mind-set that needs to change, and we must take a long hard critical look at our animal keeping habits and the way we regulate pet ownership, otherwise any improvement is impossible. It has unfortunately become obvious to me during a forty-year career in the animal welfare industry that the status of animals and standards of care have not improved and have arguably worsened as we have only ever paid lip service to our claim of being a nation of animal lovers. In reality we are no more loving than any other.
What about the fact that we keep so many animals, were the first to have welfare laws, to set up animal charities and to spread animal welfare ideals around the world I hear you cry?
Well, the problem with this premise is that if we are such a country of animal lovers why do we have thousands of animal charities in the UK attempting to solve all the irresponsible ownership and so many laws to protect them. Surely, a civilised and well-regulated society such as ours, that respects and cares for its animals has no need for them, but there are more being established every week; and why are an estimated 10 million pets caused physical and mental stress each year; why are hundreds of thousands of unwanted pets treated as disposable items and discarded into animal charity re-cycling plants; why does the RSPCA receive over a million telephone calls and have to investigate 150,000 complaints of cruelty and why are our laws so ineffective and badly enforced?
We allow all this to happen because we are too busy labouring under the false impression that we are this nation of animal lovers to recognise that we have an endemic problem of uninformed and thoughtless animal ownership in the UK, which neither the charities or government are able to combat because of misguided policies and a lack of resolution.